Change takes time. But it can happen.
I offer up the story of My Boy.
My Boy has worked in retail banking for almost 8 years. He’s one of the dudes behind the counter saying ‘How can we help you today sir/miss?’
Sadly, this also means he’s one of the dudes behind the counter taking shit from everyone who walks in the door with a financial problem and this has told significantly upon his health (see earlier posts for PTSD and Anxiety issues).
He has had several spells signed off work sick (Gods bless statutory sick pay, the sickness policy at the company and the NHS – without you all we’d both be dead). Some of those have been, to put if mildly, horrendous, as have the build ups to being being off and the wind ups to him going back.
About 3 years ago, the poor love had had enough. The banking crisis was dominating the press, people were leaving the company, hiring was on a freeze. This meant that there were less people working, more things to do, customers were being more antagonistic than ever and morale was at an all time low. He came home one day, loaded up the computer and said ‘I have got to find something to get me out because I don’t think I can survive working here’.
He wasn’t saying that for effect, at the time he was on a high dose of anti depressants and anxiety medication and had been diagnosed as a diabetic a couple of years previous and was still adjusting to medicine for that too. He was in touch with the crisis team at the NHS and saw two therapists that year alone.
He found an advert for driving instructors. At this point he had been driving for 13 years without a single point on his license, no accidents and no major incidents and he LOVES to drive. He’d also had a taste of practical instruction, showing new members of a larp group how to fight safely with various weapons and insisting on safe procedures. ‘I think I’d quite like that, ’ he said. ‘I could work for a franchise, and so not worry about pupils referrals because we’ve got two universities and different colleges in town, but I would be self employed. I could set my own hours and schedules and stuff.’
So we did some investigating. When I say this, what I mean is that for the next year we researched different franchises and different options for funding. That part took a year. Partly because he endured another long period off sick and so progress was slow, but the reasons for him being off sick spurred us on. He could not go back to that environment indefinitely. He had to have a plan of escape.
Eventually we sorted out some finance for the training course with a franchise provider (with some help from his Mum, who he is still paying back at the going financial loan rate, no special treatment here). We got him registered, cleared with the criminal records bureau and started on part one of the course.
Part one is an advanced theory test. This means studying and practising with hazard perception. It took a few months – and this was tough going. Every day he would come home from work and then sit and study for an hour. This meant doing a practice multiple choice test, checking his answers, looking up the ones he got wrong in the theory book and then doing a hazard perception test, which was difficult as he was really tired due to having been so ill. But he never gave up. In Feb 2011 we went to Preston for the day so that he could take his test. He passed first time.
This started his move to Part two, advanced driving. For a driving test in the UK, you are permitted up to 15 minor faults. For an instructor, the maximum you are allowed is 6. So My Boy had to start seeing an instructor and unpicking 14 years worth of lazy habits and updating his knowledge to new road signs, new road conditions, new rules and new cars with new buttons and leavers and engines.
We made our first mistake at this point. He decided to book the test in December before we went away on Holiday. He thought having a deadline would help him. He was also influenced by yet another Christmas-and-New-Year rush at the Bank and wanting to get out as soon as possible. We rushed it. And he got sick. Not mentally ill, but a dose of head cold. He persevered and did the test anyway.
Have any of you tried to drive under stress when you’re getting over a cold? You make mistakes, you miss markers and you are generally cotton wooly. He didn’t pass. He only failed by a couple of points, but even so.
We went away over Christmas and he relaxed a little and realised he had been foolish. Sadly… this is where things got complicated. Remember that cold? Yeah that turned into flu. And he’s diabetic. It knocked him flat and he was off work again for a while. This delayed him retaking the test. He rebooked the test for the summer eventually and passed with no trouble at all.
On to phase three.
Phase three is where you become a trainee instructor. You teach lessons at a lower rate (30% lower than a fully qualified instructor) and can only be on the trainee license for 6 months, part time. Now My Boy already has a full time job, rubbish as it is it pays the bills. So it was time for another sit down with the calculator. We figured he could make enough money working evenings and weekends to pay the reduced franchise fee and still work full time for everything else. We looked at each other in dismay – we would survive, but we might not see each other very much for the next six months. I’d just started a new job which involves a lot of travelling and being away, which didn’t help. The stress of this culminated in another anxiety attack in full view of the bank staff at work, and my boy was signed off work again, which meant he could not start instructing for a while. Not the best of fresh starts.
However – we got him a psych evaluation at the local mental hospital and armed with this we went to a charity provider who do long term counselling, rather than waiting another 6+ months on the NHS. My boy started attending weekly counselling. But now we were having to pay for it. Which squeezed things further. I decided to start paying a friend who had fallen on hard times to come and do housework for us. Another expense. Which left very little money for anything fun – but we were too busy for fun.
So then the car arrived. And with it the first few students. Which lead to recommendations and word from friends, which alongside a few enquiries from people through the franchise hotline meant we had enough to be going on with. My Boy dropped his hours down to 4 days a week, allowing him to attend counselling, continue going to training and have time to teach people. By the time December rolled around, he had 9 regular clients, all seeing him for 2 hours a week. The glee was hard to suppress. This was going to work.
But… we made the same mistake again. He tried to complete his final test early, to get it done by Christmas. And he just missed the pass mark. Only just. The instructor described it as ‘knocking on the door’. He was devastated and I was away in another county on business at the time, so I could not even be with him. It was a horrible time.
But I had reckoned without my Boy’s resilience. By the time I came home, he had booked a week off work, rebooked his test and made a plan. I got the date, and booked time off work so that I would not be called away to who-knows-where.
The test date was yesterday.
For another two months my boy persevered with working and training and teaching and therapy. It has been a hard two months, but his business grew. He now has 12 people, his first student has passed his test and he has had to turn business away because he’s so busy.
So yesterday, as mentioned, he took the test. And passed.
Not only did he pass, but he aced it. You have to score a minimum of 4/6 on the core competencies to pass. For many of them, my boy scored 5/6. I am so deeply proud of him.
So today – he has gone to his soon-to-be-old-job to hand in his resignation letter, giving four weeks notice to quit and go full time, as a fully qualified instructor on a higher rate of pay.
It has taken almost three years. We started looking at this in Jan/Feb 2010. It took a year of research, planning and obtaining funding, 6 months of studying, a year of training and another 6 months of working two jobs and continuing studying. During that time he has battled physical health difficulties, mental health difficulties and real world worries about money and whether he was doing the right thing.
You can change your fate. You can do it. Yes it is not easy, but nothing in this world that is worth having is easy. Do NOT give up. Do not stay in an existence you despise, that is making you ill. It might not happen over night. It might take weeks, or months. It might take years. It has taken my boy the equivalent of a UK undergraduate degree’s worth of study and time to change his fate. Now he has done it. And by the time we are married he will be established in his new career, which we are secure in because of that year spend researching supply and demand.
I am more proud of him than even all these words can say.
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